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Isaac Dorislaus

Isaac Dorislaus (1595 in Alkmaar, Holland – 2 May 1649 at The Hague, Holland) was a Dutch Calvinist historian and lawyer who was an important official in Oliver Cromwell's period of rule. He came to England as a historian. His lectures were seen as political rhetoric, with references to kings with unjustified power aimed at portraying reigning monarch, Charles I of England, as a tyrant. Little was done about his propagandizing however. Dorislaus became advocate general of the army in the first civil war, and for all his previous theorizing about ancient liberties, quickly showed authoritarian tendencies by his attempted introduction of martial law to help him root out Royalists. He is remembered for his part in the High Court of Justice for the trial of Charles I, although his role was not prominent, and being assassinated by Royalists while on a diplomatic mission in his native country.

Background and influenceEdit

From a strongly Calvinist family, he was educated at Leiden, He arrived in England as the University of Cambridge's first ever professor of History.[1][2] From the outset he attacked the legitimacy of kings and justified revolt, as when he emphasized the Anglo-Saxon roots of England before 1066, emphasizing what he saw as democratic freedom enjoyed by all Englishmen before they lost it to the Norman conquerors and also justified the Dutch uprising against Spain. His apparent propagandizing for republicanism and regicide was seen as aimed at the King Charles I of England, who was suspected of Catholic sympathies and failure to uphold the country's interests against powerful foreign enemies. Despite his thinly veiled condemnation of the reigning royal power, little real action was taken against him apart from his doctorate being delayed. In 1629 he was admitted a commoner of the College of Advocates. In 1632 he made his peace at court, and on two occasions acted as judge advocate, in the Bishops War of 1640 and in 1642 in the army commanded by the Earl of Essex. Despite his early advocacy of freedom from untrammeled power, once ensconced in a position of authority, Dorislaus attempted to sweep away legal protection for the accused. He assisted in preparing the charge of high treason against Charles I, but was not prominent in the proceedings themselves.[3]

Official of CommonwealthEdit

In 1648 he became Judge of the High Court of Admiralty, and was sent on a diplomatic errand to the states general of Holland, which was accused of having profited from England's civil war. Dorislaus did not live to see the First Anglo-Dutch War in which the Puritan regime of Cromwell fought its fellow Protestant power over commercial rivalries. While negotiating as a representative of the Commonwealth in the Dutch Republic, he was murdered at the Hague by Englishmen, largely because of his role in the trial of Charles I.[4] The assassination caused dismay among Cromwell's associates and great jubilation among royalists.[5][6] His remains were buried in Westminster Abbey, and moved in 1661 to St. Margaret's churchyard.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Dorislaus (Doreslawe), Isaac (DRSS631I)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  2. ^ WALSHAM, ALEXANDRA (15 November 2012). "HISTORY, MEMORY, AND THE ENGLISH REFORMATION". The Historical Journal. 55 (04): 899. doi:10.1017/S0018246X12000362.
  3. ^ Spencer, Charles, Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I p 33
  4. ^ Spencer, Charles, Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I p 33
  5. ^ Todd, Margo (2004). "Dorislaus, Isaac (1595–1649)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/7832. Retrieved 2012-10-24. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  6. ^ Spencer, Charles, Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I p 33
  7. ^ Spencer, Charles, Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I p 33